Friday 31 October 2014


fund in memory of an acclaimed stalker, naturalist, photographer and author has been established to challenge worsening treatment of one of Scotland’s most iconic animals.
The family of late highlander Lea MacNally, for whom Prince Charles once stalked as mark of respect, has inaugurated a fighting fund to highlight and tackle serious problems facing native red deer.
Lea MacNally, who died in 1993 age 66, spent his life championing deer welfare as a stalker, the National Trust for Scotland’s first ranger/ecologist and as an author of 6 renowned books on highland wildlife.
He studied winter deer mortality, helped establish the first deer management group, in Wester Ross, and was a Fellow of the Edinburgh Zoological Society.
Now his family say they can no longer sit idle, as some of the threats now facing Scotland’s red deer go against everything he worked for in his lifetime.
Lea’s youngest son, Michael MacNally, 60, said: “Deer was not just an interest for my father, it was his passion. Deer welfare was his principal concern. He would be horrified at what is going on just now, particularly with out-of-season shooting. Conservation groups are battening on deer as a whole and treating them as vermin. Anything that can be done to fight this must be worthwhile.”
The family’s opening donation to the fund, run through The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, has financed a response to the Scottish Government’s deer management vision, Wild Deer: A National Approach.
The work, commissioned to renowned ecologist Dr James Fenton, challenges some major aspects of current central thinking on deermanagement, principally in relation to deer and tree regeneration.
In recent years, SNH has approved a growing number of licences to enable deer, including hinds in calf, to be culled outwith the legal seasons.
The majority of these applications are for forestry and conservation groups’ pine regeneration schemes, with red deer in some areas being heavily reduced.
Deer wandering into regeneration areas, where no fences have been erected to prevent their passage, can be culled for major parts of the year if licences are granted out of season.
This has significant implications for neighbouring jobs supported by sport stalking, but also for animal welfare. 
Lea MacNally junior, 63, said: “These out-of-season licences are being rubber-stamped far too easily without proper assessments and it is this type of thing my father would have found utterly abhorrent. Where we are, jobs are at risk, too. Estates can’t continue to employ stalkers if their traditional cull is quartered or halved in some areas because many deer are being shot out of season.”
Lea senior’s widow, Margaret, 85, is pleased the fund has been set up and hopes the powers-that-be listen to people on the ground.
“I think if something is going to be done to help deer, it will have to come from the working people. My husband had a great respect for deerand welfare in particular. He knew deer had to be culled, too, but they were careful what they took and what they left. They didn’t need to shoot deer out of season. It’s not something he would have approved of at all.”

About the late Lea MacNally:  

An avid observer of nature, photographer and letter writer, Lea was persuaded to write books by a Belgian tenant at Culachy in Fort Augustus where Lea was a full-time stalker.
His book, Highland Year (1968) inspired many people to become stalkers/gamekeepers. It was reprinted after his death in 1993.
His other books were Highland Deer Forest (1970), Wild Highlands (1972), The Year of the Red Deer (1975), The Ways of an Eagle (1977) and Torridon: Life and Wildlife in the Scottish Highlands, which was published after he died.

He loved the life and ways of the highlands. Trained originally as an engineer in Glasgow, he would cycle home on long weekends to Fort Augustus as he did not like the city.
Whilst with the National Trust for Scotland in Torridon, he established a deer park and an innovative audio visual installation to teach people about deer and highland wildlife.

He was a regular contributor to the Scots Magazine and Shooting Times, writing all his articles in long-hand.

Lea (junior), Margaret and Michael MacNally with the acclaimed book, Highland Year, written by the late Lea MacNally senior. The book inspired many to take up gamekeeping/stalking as a profession.

Glyn Satterley's picture of the late Lea MacNally.

If you would like to support the new Lea MacNally Deer Fund by donation, please contact the SGA Office on 01738 587 515. Funds will be ring-fenced to assist deer projects which require specialist skills outwith those held by the SGA Committee. This is over and above the deer work already undertaken by the SGA. The first investment from the new fund has been to commission the skills and knowledge of respected ecologist Dr James Fenton for the SGAs submission to the Scottish Government's Wild Deer: A National Approach consultation. We will be highlighting this work in the forthcoming edition of Scottish Gamekeeper.

Thursday 16 October 2014


                                                                SGA Christmas cards

                                                                       SGA Notelets

                                                                  2015 SGA Calendar

With Christmas approaching, SGA members and supporters, like everyone, will be thinking about cards and gifts for friends and family.

Thanks to the hard work of a busy SGA HQ, this year we can offer packs of special SGA Christmas cards, hand-crafted by none other than Committee member, Bert Burnett.
Bert has placed a fun slant on some SGA campaigns and conservation projects, with cards featuring celebrating wading birds, un-docked gun dogs and red deer up to their neck in the white stuff!
He has also carefully sketched some excellent notelets featuring gun dogs in the field, which will make excellent gifts or cards for those special written messages.
We also have a new SGA calendar for 2015 featuring some excellent images from yesteryear as well as topical modern-day shots. You may even recognise some familiar committee faces, but in the flush of childhood. The theme is ‘Gamekeeping Through The Ages’ and the calendars are already proving highly popular.

Hand-crafted SGA Christmas Cards by Bert Burnett (pack of 6): £5.00
Hand-crafted SGA notelets by Bert Burnett (pack of 8): £3.50
SGA 2015 Calendar: £8.50.

To order any of these items, contact the SGA office on 01738 587 515.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Join the new SGA Fishing Group.

As many will have heard, the SGA has formed a new SGA Fishing Group, which will operate in the same way as the grouse and deer groups currently do within the organisation.

Our new fishing group is for river workers and anglers. It has come about as a result of conversations with ghillie members, organisations and concerned individuals.

People are rightly worried about many issues and, although the SGA has always represented river ghillies, it was decided that greater representation was required in the shape of a new, dedicated group that could give a voice, often missing, to the working people on the rivers and to anglers keen to affect positive change to help preserve salmon and trout, jobs and the benefits to communities which stem from a healthy wild fisheries system.

As a process of working towards the formation of this group, the SGA Committee enlisted Duncan Ferguson last year as a new member, working alongside existing member, Colin Espie, a ghillie of nearly 40 years experience.

The group is now into Phase 2, which is seeking candidate representation from regions across Scotland, mindful that each river or geographical location is likely to have different priorities. In order to assist this process, regional meetings will be held over the coming months, in order to outline the aims and ethos, and expand the group’s membership and support.

The aim of the group is:

- to give a powerful voice to river workers and concerned anglers, in order to affect positive change and to preserve employment and the many benefits which come from healthy wild fisheries.
- to form its own policy direction, based on strong leadership and using the skills and knowledge of its members and supporters, gleaned over many years at a practical level.
- to engage effectively with policy makers and political departments, as part of an existing 5300-strong membership organisation, in order to advance its members’ interests.
- to ensure that the group’s interests are represented fairly and widely in the local and national media.

Some of the many issues already highlighted by the group are:

- the need for curbs on unrestricted netting
- the need for strong government leadership on the breaching of environmental standards by aquaculture companies in the west of Scotland
- the need for better data on wild fish populations
- the need for river workers to have greater say in major decisions potentially affecting their work, jobs and livelihoods such as the Scottish Government’s Land Reform aspirations.
- the need for increased predator control under licence and sustainable habitat improvement

If you are interested in joining the SGA Fishing Group and fighting the many issues facing your industry, you can do so now by subscribing as a member.

For £40 per year, you can join under the new ghillie/fishing category.

This not only gives you access to the group’s activities, it also gives you one of the best value country sports memberships in the UK including fishing and shooting liability insurance for individuals and syndicates (if you are also a shooter) and a host of other benefits indicated here

By subscribing, the funds will enable the group to support its work initially, whilst we will also be seeking donations, as the SGA also does in other operational areas, in order for us to be able to deliver campaign objectives.

If you want to keep in touch with the group’s activities but cannot commit time to assist, joining as a supporter member for £25 per annum will also keep you abreast of all group activities. It will also provide vital financial input towards a worthy goal.

Frequent posts on our website and social media platforms, as well as news and bulletins in our quarterly member magazine, will keep you up to date on campaigns, additions to the group and regional meeting dates as we take the group forward.

What the SGA has achieved to date and why joining the SGA will help get your voice heard:

Since its formation in 1997, the SGA

- has ensured its members are represented on all the major countryside stakeholder bodies at government and non-government level
- has lobbied Westminster, Holyrood and EU governments
- fought, through a 5000-strong march in Edinburgh and political engagement, the worst excesses of the Watson Bill, maintaining its members’ ability to flush foxes with terriers.
- campaigned for member rights to be able to use essential tools for predator control through the passage of the WANE Bill
- has informed governmental best practice guidelines on deer management, firearms, the Access Code and snaring
- delivered a 5400-strong petition to Holyrood, calling for an end to tail docking legislation, currently now under review.
- successfully fought for the retention of a system of  voluntary deer management rather than having deer numbers controlled by Holyrood.
- delivered its most successful year-long conservation campaign, the 2014 SGA Year of the Wader
- been a key stakeholder in Land Reform negotiations and in consultations on the Wild Fisheries Review
- has outlined proposals to put forward a ‘countryside MSP’ for election to the Scottish Parliament
- has inaugurated the Lea MacNally Deer Fund to fight deer-specific issues in Scotland
- has introduced the new SGA Fishing Group, to give river workers and anglers a greater voice to affect change in the fishing industry.

Thursday 9 October 2014

All Deer Managers - Please Help Our Industry With A Questionnaire

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is supporting a vital initiative to update the 2006 PACEC Report, in relation to the deer sector.

The 2006 PACEC Report was a watershed document which helped deer managers and industry groups quantify, in detail, the number of jobs and benefits the deer sector generated.

Without it, it would have been very difficult for us to present consistent and transparent information to policy-makers.
We now seek YOUR help to update the PACEC Report, making it fit for the present day.

As we move towards the Scottish Government's further review of deer management in 2016, it is essential that the deer sector has accurate, independently-verified, information to demonstrate the financial and employment value of deer management to the Scottish rural economy.

We also seek to gather more information on deer population trends and to assess progress in relation to deer management planning, habitat monitoring, deer counting and public engagement.

The attached questionnaire is therefore of critical importance for all involved in deer management, both in the Highlands and throughout the lowlands and near urban situations.

View and Download the Questionnaire (PDF FILE or WORD DOCUMENT)

Please participate whether you are a land owner or farmer, employed or vocational deer stalker, Government Agency or Local Authority deer management employee.

Complete it as an individual regardless of whether you are involved in a deer management group and please also draw it to the attention of any friends and colleagues. It is imperative that we, as an industry, can demonstrate, in facts and figures, our economic contribution and accurately convey a wider understanding of our collective responsibilities relating to the management of the habitat and in particular the management of designated and sensitive sites across Scotland.

I very much hope that you will take the time to complete the questionnaire, which is attached. These can be filled in online and printed and sent or printed off, filled in and sent.

Yours Alex Hogg, Chairman, The Scottish Gamekeepers Association.

Wednesday 8 October 2014



A Spokesman for the SGA Fishing Group said: “The SGA Fishing group has called for a quota system to be introduced to urgently conserve dwindling salmon stocks.
“We are pleased the report recognises the implications of unregulated netting activity when salmon stocks are low.
“Rod anglers have shown, through record voluntary uptake of catch and release policies in recent years, that they can fish sustainably and still contribute to a healthy fish stock.
“What the introduction of a science-based licence to kill fish will do is bind everyone to the same principle of sustainable management, whether using a rod or a net, something our members feel has been lacking in recent times. We hope the government support this recommendation fully.
“In terms of rod licences, we do not disagree with the concept and are fully supportive of measures which will make angling appealing to more young people. However, we have doubts over how such a system can be policed.
“Moving forward, we have real concerns that the views and knowledge of our working members on the rivers will become lost in a national body top-heavy with civil servants and scientists.
“If the national body is to remain credible and effective, it needs to take into account the knowledge and experience of people on the rivers.

“While the report touches upon the affects of aquaculture on wild fish stocks, we are disappointed it does not recommend intervention measures when operators are known to be breaching environmental standards.”

Tuesday 7 October 2014


As members will have seen in the most recent edition of Scottish Gamekeeper, the SGA has forged an exciting partnership with Ford UK that will see SGA members receive significant cash discounts on both work AND private vehicles.
Our exclusive arrangement with Ford UK will also see a portion of the member discount returning to the SGA to help us promote and defend the vital work of gamekeepers, stalkers, river and land ghillies, fishing group members, wildlife managers and rangers.
Ford UK has an extensive range of vehicles, from road cars to vans and transits as well as the highly acclaimed and hard working Ranger series.
To show what’s possible, we can reveal some of the cash discounts SGA members will receive if they choose Ford UK.
The Blue Ranger (double cab) Limited (pictured) carries additional savings from £2799. 
The Orange Ranger (double cab) Wildtrak (pictured) comes with additional reductions of £1721- a significant saving.
Terms and conditions apply, subject to availability, spec and colour.
Our arrangement will also cover all the latest Ford models and new releases and SGA members can also test drive before buying.
The designated Ford UK dealership for the member arrangement is Macrae and Dick, 130 Dunkeld Rd, Perth, Perth and Kinross PH1 3AA
(tel) 01738 625121.
Only paid-up members of the SGA will comply for the discounts and membership will be verified by the SGA office and Macrae and Dick Ltd.
If you would like to join the SGA or renew your membership, you can do so online here: or by calling the office on 01738 587 515.

Monday 6 October 2014


The new SGA Fishing campaign group issued the following response today (Oct 6th) to the Scottish Government announcement of further growth in fish farm output.
The SGA Fishing group is fully supportive of rural employment and benefits to local communities. However, it feels the Scottish Government is not doing enough to protect wild salmon and sea trout from the negative impacts from fish farming operations.

A Spokesman for the new SGA Fishing Group said: “While the SGA is fully supportive of job creation and economic benefits in rural communities, our members have real concerns about the impact of fish farming on Scotland’s wild salmon and sea trout stocks.
“Some aquaculture operations on the west have been responsible for sea lice infestation levels three times the industry’s own safe limits, which cannot be sustainable, and the industry is highly reliant on chemicals which affect the health of wild fish.
“We feel more needs to be done by Scottish government to ensure the marine environment and wild fish are protected against the well documented negative impacts of fish farming.”


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association issued the following response today (October 6th) to media reports highlighting further tools for SNH to tackle wildlife crime.
While the SGA is committed to tackling wildlife crime and its root causes, the organisation maintains its initial opposition to this enabling clause, which has been part of the General Licences throughout 2014. 

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “While the SGA fully supports the tackling of wildlife crime, we have always maintained that this General Licence enabling clause is ill-judged and could have serious unintended consequences.
“Individuals, if found guilty in court, can already have their General Licence removed. This new clause, however, applies to both individuals and land. 
“Therefore, a law abiding gamekeeper going about his or her job properly could lose their livelihood and family home on the basis that the estate upon which they are working is ‘suspected’ of a wildlife crime.
If one teacher in a school is suspected of illegality, do all fellow teachers lose the ability to do their jobs, in that school? No, this would not happen.

“This will be open to legal challenge as a breach of rights. Similarly, it gives those opposed to shooting, encouragement. We have already seen incidents where estates are under placed suspicion for illegally set traps when the damage has been caused by others who have sought to interfere with legal estate operations.”

Friday 3 October 2014


A new fishing campaign arm of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) is calling on Scottish government to adopt a quota system for 2015, to conserve plummeting stocks.
Catches of wild salmon and sea trout have dipped alarmingly in the last two years and river ghillies, boatmen, bailiffs and anglers are fearful for an industry worth £113 million.
Analysts expect catch records for 2014, available by the end of the year, to highlight significant problems in Scotland’s coastal waters and rivers.
Last week, The Marine Conservation Society advised that wild Scottish salmon should no longer be eaten because of its conservation status, claiming Scotland has ‘no management regime in place to prevent an increase in coastal netting.’
Now a new SGA fishing group has been established to ensure government hears the urgent concerns of river workers and anglers, with 2800 jobs sustained by the activity.
The new group feels Scottish government could help the industry and ease tension between anglers and netsmen by applying quotas through a tagging system.
A record of 92 per cent of all Spring salmon were returned to the rivers by anglers through voluntary catch-and-release initiatives in 2013, helping to preserve fragile stocks.
However, no such restrictions have been extended to, or embraced by, netsmen.
Under a tagging system, anglers and netsmen wishing to kill fish will have to apply for a tag and quotas for how many fish can be taken would be based on available science.
“Wild fish need all the help they can get and it is clear that lack of action is no longer an option, which is the main reason for this new group,” said Spey ghillie, Ian Gordon, part of the new body.
“The views of professional ghillies and river keepers have been ignored by too many for too long and we need to provide ghillies, salmon and sea trout anglers and interested parties with a strong voice to ensure the longevity of species, sport and way of life.
“One of the immediate actions Scottish government could take, in time for next season, would be to look at quotas through a tagging system.
“Both anglers, river workers and netsmen, at the end of the day, all want the same thing; more fish in our rivers.
“By applying quotas that everyone is bound by, Scottish government can ensure that conservation measures are targeted and only what is harvestable is taken.”
Poor survival at sea, seal predation and high mortality caused as a result of lice infestations from fish farms have all affected Scottish salmon and sea trout numbers.
One of the proposals being discussed by the new group is a pilot river re-stocking programme, to add resilience to the industry- a key source of rural employment.
Colin Espie, Deeside ghillie for over 40 years and part of the new SGA fishing group, said: “With the current drop in Spring catches, in particular, something needs to be done and people need to speak up now to help the situation.”

New group member, Duncan Ferguson, agreed: “Fishing is such an important part of the rural economy. We need to help tackle the problems and also to encourage the future generations who will become the guardians of our rivers.”

*PLEASE NOTE: We will have more news next week on our website about how you can get involved in the new SGA fishing group.

Wednesday 1 October 2014


In response to a new report by Leeds University stating that burning of grouse moors leads to environmental changes, the SGA has given the following response:

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: "It is important to monitor the affects of all management practice on land.
Those clamouring for curbs on grouse shooting, for example, should assess the carbon released through widespread afforestation and pine regeneration programmes on peat soil in the Scottish uplands, which have the same drying and degrading affect as described in the Leeds study, including the release of stored pollutants.
“Controlled heather burning, following the strict Muirburn Code, only takes place within very short, regulated, seasons. Following best practice, it only takes place when the fire will not burn into peat edges.
“Aside from providing benefits acknowledged by SNH and organisations such as RSPB when it comes to conservation for black grouse, for example, controlled muirburn helps alleviate more damaging environmental problems on peatland.
“Rotational strip burning acts as a fire-break against the spread of wildfires which scorch peat over large areas, releasing carbon into the atmosphere at a far more damaging rate than any controlled muirburn would. We saw this at Mar Lodge when a campfire caused the loss of 10 hectares of important blaeberry amongst Pinewoods.

“Regenerating heather, which has lost its nutritional value, through cyclical muirburn provides vital food and shelter for birds such as waders, some of which are now only stable on grouse moors, so it is important to see the study within context.”